I’d take mockery over hatred – every time

Christians ought to be mocked far more than we’re hated. That’s my thought this morning.

In Acts 12, the passage that I’m preaching on this Sunday, we see that the gospel always advances hand in glove with opposition. And nothing I’m about to say is meant to diminish our expectation of that persecution. But I still think that Christians as a whole ought to be mocked far more frequently than we’re hated.

It was Romans 3 that set in motion this latest train of thought. Paul begins verse 27 with the rhetorical question, ‘where then is boasting?’ And then he answers with ‘it’s excluded’. There can be no boasting in Christianity. Boasting in ourselves and our own achievements, that is. We can boast in Christ and make much of him. But not of ourselves. And why is that? Well, if 1:18-3:20 has done its work then we’ve been utterly drained of any self-confidence. We’ve got nothing.

The Christian has nothing to boast about. And so we ought to be known for our humility, perhaps even known for being humiliated. We’ve come up before God’s standards and been found wanting. Woefully. The only thing we contributed to our salvation was the sin that made it necessary! God doesn’t accept us into His presence because of what we’ve done but because of what His son, Jesus Christ has done. We’ve nothing to boast about. Think about it for a moment. If I walked to the top of Mount Everest unaided then I’d have every right to talk up my achievement. It would be quite something. But if someone else had carried me up to the top of Mount Everest and I started boasting about my achievements then I’d be an idiot. No, I’d find the whole thing somewhat humiliating. I had to be carried. By someone else. I was utterly incapable of contributing anything to my glorious ascent of Mount Everest other than my weight which burdened the one who carried me. And others who heard about it ought to mock me for it!

Spiritually speaking, that’s me. That’s every Christian. We’re incapable of walking into God’s presence. We needed Jesus Christ to carry us. Let’s be honest, it’s humiliating. I have nothing to boast about.

So why mocked rather than hated? Someone who’s been humiliated is very easy to hold in derision. We secretly mock the men and women who adorn the pages of the tabloids because they’re collective failures are laughable. We hold them in contempt and ridicule them because they’ve been exposed and embarrassed. But we have been humiliated. By the word of God. I’ve been exposed as a complete moral failure. I cannot talk up my own achievements, since I have none. There are things that I’ve said, thought and done of which I’m ashamed. I don’t even come before a holy God with empty hands. I come before him with a bucket load of skeletons in the closet. It’s all rather pathetic. And easy to mock.

But are you and I really mocked? Could it be that we’re not as open about our failure as we should be? Could it be that people think that we’re the hero of our Christian life not Jesus? Could it be that people think we’re rather superior and self-righteously confident in our own religious achievements? Could it be that we’ve hidden from people our utter dependency on our saviour? Could it be that we’ve not made as much or Jesus as we should have done? Do those that know us know that we think we’re wicked and that we think Jesus is wonderful?

At CCB this month we have the ‘Naked God’ mission. Martin Ayers is coming to give two pub talks. It’s a wonderful opportunity to be open about our sin and to make much of our saviour. And we may be mocked for it. But better to be mocked for being morally pathetic than to be hated for being self-righteous.

3 thoughts on “I’d take mockery over hatred – every time

  1. Lauri Moyle March 14, 2014 / 4:37 pm

    I am uncomfortable with this post. Could you clarify some things?

    You use the passive voice when you use the term mocked. You also do not clarify who, if at all, is doing the hating. Is it Christians mocking Christians? Non church folk hating Christians and doing the mocking? God mocking Christians?

    You rightly say that Christians should be humble, but then you beg the question without justification that it is perhaps even true that we should be humiliated. But you do not justify this positively. In other words, just because we are not to boast (in our in/ability to keep some kind of moral code), does not mean we are to be (or to actively seek out) humiliation. (Which the blog post sort of makes it sounds like.)

    But to take the Roman passage means we are to be humble, which is quite hard to mock in my experience, and actually tends to be rather attractive. But I am wandering what sort of humility/humiliation you are thinking of? This isn’t clear.

    The penultimate paragraph of the blog post seems to indicate that you might be asking if our non-christian friends know that we think we are essentially hypocrites (or at least that we have been in the past)?

    If so, then my experience of being open and speaking about shame and guilt as a humble person regretting those things, is that I am not mocked for it, at least not by my friends. Rather it’s when I try and hide my own failure and am found out that I am mocked (usually quite lightly by my friends), and sternly looked down on by those in church (whom I tend to want to perform form much more. So when I act as a hypocrite I experience mockery from friends and / pseudo-hatred in the form of a finger wagging from Christians (i.e. your bringing the name of the church down again…).

    Even Paul thinks this sort of behaviour is worth mocking. The hypocrisy of the un-humble, boastful self righteous (as Paul does so well in 2 Corinthians 11:16-12:11). I think my worldly friends have the same instinct as Paul. And in some ways that is precisely why much of the tabloid media can get away with slander, cause we all like to laugh at a hypocrite.

    You claim that the gospel always advances hand in glove with opposition citing Acts 12, but you do not explain how Acts 12 relates to “always”.

    Indeed it is interesting that you use that particular passage because it shows that God will not be mocked, first when he released Peter and second when he strikes Herod down.

    I guess constructively I would add that mocking and hatred are not mutually exclusive. Mockery is actually probably a sign of exclusion based on a type of hatred. In other words, if I am being mocked by somebody who hates me, I would rather they hate me, because at least then I know they take my message seriously.

    I also wonder whether saying that the gospel humiliates us is really the best way of proclaiming the good news of Jesus. (I instinctively think thats not what you meant, but it does sort of feel like it…)

    The gospel humbles us, but the very point of the gospel is precisely that we can raise our heads from the kneeling position, in the presence of God because the love he showed by sending his Son to take our place in punishment. Isn’t that the part of the gospel that your blog post sort of misses out on? God does not except us ‘only’ because of what Jesus did (that sort of drives a wedge between the father and the son doesn’t it?), but he accepts us because his love required that he (God) die for us. Thats something we boast about isn’t it.

    I hope these question and comments might teas out what you mean? I really am interested in hearing more.

    • theurbanpastor March 14, 2014 / 5:35 pm

      Thanks Lauri. To be honest my response won’t happen any time soon. Sorry it appears so ill thought through and so inadequately expressed. I don’t like being ambiguous. All the best.

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